Farewell Colette Faller


16 Feb – Patrick Grubb MW, once head of wine for Sotheby's, adds: 'I remember Theo from the day, when I was a director at Lebegue and we were UK agents. Outstanding wines even then, but hard to drag people to consider their purity and style. Opened my last bottle of 1966 last year. It was still outstanding and had not been well cellared.' This portrait, incidentally, is courtesy of Cephas Picture Library.

The following appreciation is written by Yohan Castaing and me – JR

Colette Faller, the driving force of Domaine Weinbach in Alsace, passed away yesterday at the age of 85.

This woman, for whom the word ‘indomitable’ seemed to have been designed, took over the domaine in 1979 on the death of her husband Théo. By investing in viticulture and understanding the fabulous terroir of Clos des Capucins and such other grands crus as Schlossberg, Furstentum and Mambourg, Colette made the domaine one of the greatest in the region. For the last few decades she worked closely with her daughters Laurence and Catherine Faller, in charge respectively of winemaking and sales. Cathy was in London last month with her dentist husband for Justerini & Brooks’ annual burgundy tasting. I always feel sorry for her because her table comes at the end of about 30 burgundy producers, but there are always many bees round her honeypot.

Always smiling and very happy to receive visitors at the domaine, Colette personified the joie de vivre à l’alsacienne and was known all over the world for the generosity of her hospitality – and her continued glamour, obvious in this portrait by Jacques Dehaire. There would often be several groups of visitors stationed in the inter-connecting rooms on her ground floor and she would whizz in and out of them clanking bottles in the manner of a particularly slick, wine-lubricated farce.

In May last year her brilliant younger daughter died from a tragic heart attack. I met Colette for the last time, last August, with fellow wine writer Ian d’Agata, and we saw a mother devastated by the loss of her daughter. But the passion for her domaine and for life gave her fantastic courage and the desire to continue the work of Laurence.

Catherine Faller will now manage Domaine Weinbach with her sons Théo and Eddy who is planning to return in May from his banking career. She has inherited the family’s winning ways and the winemaking is in very sure hands. Winemaking is in the hands of Ghislain Berthiot who worked with Laurence for 11 years.

As a tribute to Colette I publish my garbled, burgundy-sodden notes on the handful of Faller/Weinbach wines I asked Cathy to pick out for me to taste at the end of the J&B tasting last month.

Dom Weinbach, Famille Faller, Cuvée Laurence Gewurztraminer 2013 Alsace

Unmistakably Gewurz with real nerve. Obviously quite a bit of residual sugar but also great intensity of flavour and enough freshness. Great stuff! Oil of attar! With a hint of smoke. Long. This is a wine that deserves a premium because of the very sad and sudden demise of Laurence.